Mission Partner Update - The Williamsons, August 2023
We never have experienced so much opposition like we are facing now. We are asking you to stand with us and pray for the Iski church right now, as it is going through a difficult time of testing.
It all started a little over a month ago when a young man in church took his own life. This young man was an active part of the church since its birth in 2017. He was a leader among the young men in the church, lived a Christ-like example before others, and was always there to help anyone. He also had recently started being trained as a Bible teacher. He was truly an up-and-coming leader in the church.
His death rocked the church here. The two prominent clans within the Iski church here are the crocodile clan and the water clan. Pre-gospel, they have a history of fighting and blaming each other of sorcery. These old grievances don’t die easily and can take years and sometimes only die with the next generation. When this young man from the crocodile clan died, some unbelievers who are from the croc clan, out of anger and extreme grief, accused some of our leaders of working sorcery and poisoning him. Other weaker believers also joined together with them. Though the vast majority did not take part in this, it did cause a huge division in church and many believers in the water clan did not feel welcome to come anymore.
Although blameless, one of the leaders of the church, a man from the water clan and the most dynamic and passionate elder with a God-given shepherd’s heart, was also accused simply because he was a member of the water clan. One of the deacons and his wife, (the sister of the boy who died) also publicly and in anger hurled more false accusations at this elder. This happened while we were in there and we encouraged the church to come together and not allow these lies to spread and to quickly discipline those who were spreading them. Unfortunately, we had to leave the next day, so we left things in the hands of the elders and went back to town for a brief time.
While we were away for a bit, this elder who was being accused, along with his family, became discouraged and thought it was best to move away from the church to give time for these things to subside. Our elders are still new and though they have lots of maturity and experience, they have never encountered anything like this before and they found it difficult to lead the church and put down false accusations. So unfortunately, because of their passivity, they didn’t come together and deal with the issues.
While this one elder was away, on top of all the other trials they were going through, they faced more hardship. One of their young boys almost died of malaria. Then their other son got a huge boil in his groin and the infection began to spread throughout his body. Along with that, 2 other children of their relatives died. There is a battle going on here for the souls of the Iski people, and the trials that this man has been going through are evidence of that.
When Nisae and I came back in a couple of weeks ago, we found the leadership of the church was basically not functioning, and the two clans, though there was no fighting going on, remained separate. Teaching was continuing, and we were thankful for that, but what they needed was leadership. So, we got the elders together and I admonished them that they are to shepherd the church in the good times and in the bad times. Thankfully, they very quickly and humbly realized their failures as leaders and even went before the church and apologized. I’m so thankful for these men.
Also, we got the elders and deacons together and I admonished them from Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3. The deacon’s wife who caused a lot of these false accusations also was deeply convicted and, in tears, apologized to the church and to the elders.
Since then, we have been in repair mode here. I’ve been working with the elders, and we had to publicly dispel lies and rumors as well as encourage the two clans in our church not to allow old clan grievances to destroy our unity in Christ. After I shared, about 6-7 men got up and admonished the rest of the church. They said, “Jesus said in Matthew that his family were those who followed his father. I agree with Jesus, my family are not those in the crocodile clan, my family are those brothers and sisters that follow my father God’s talk.” Another man said, “This area in our culture of fighting amongst clans will stop with me. I will teach my kids not to be concerned with this area of our culture. I will also not teach my kids any of the clan creation stories. I will only teach them about God’s clan.” God is doing a work here.
Interestingly, as I was teaching on guarding our unity in Christ, just outside our sharing house (church) an unbelieving lady started yelling lies and more accusations at the top of her lungs. Also, when I finished, another man started yelling about another issue. After I stopped him we all agreed afterwards that the enemy does not want us to be unified.
It's been an exhausting couple weeks here and there’s still lots of work to be done. However, we are thankful for the brokenness going on here over sin, and for what God is teaching them through this intense fire. He is pruning, weeding, and making a pure spotless bride here. One of our leaders said this yesterday and it really encouraged me, “Jason you and Andre gave us God’s word and it has born fruit, however, there are things that need to be cleaned up. Just like a man who plants a garden but lets the grass grow and doesn’t weed it. The garden is still there, it takes the gardener getting his knife and cutting back the grass to reveal the garden produce. That is what God is doing right now in the Iski church. He is cutting the grass. He loves his church so we can be thankful for this work he is doing right now.”
Church planting is Christ’s mandate but it’s not a glorious task. Yes, there are seasons of joy and of harvest, where we can see clearly the work of God in the hearts and minds of people. Along with that though, there are also seasons of extreme heartbreak. In these seasons we see some fall back into old ways of thinking and sin, and you see the church groaning as it goes through deep, hard seasons of growth. From the outside, these seasons appear like a big nasty mess, and even where we are right now, right in the midst of it, we question what God is doing. At times I find my mind wandering into thoughts of despair and discouragement. But I’m reminded that this is necessary for further growth and development.
“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” - 1 Peter 1:6-7